She’s Too Old! Or Is She?

- By Allen Alex

Does education come with an expiry Date? Is there any written law that women's education should end with her marriage? Who decides all these rules? Society has advanced to such a great extent that a women’s identity is hidden behind her husband’s name. But as always there will be some amazing exceptions to the default norms of the society. Her life is indeed a roller coaster ride.

Every war fought is known for the destruction it caused. But the Indo Pak war was a blessing in disguise for her – as it postponed her marriage by 2 years. By God’s grace she passed her 10th and 11th in the meantime. But the norms of society for a woman put the wedding garland on her neck when she was 18 years old. Being the eldest among the three daughters in the family, she had to bear the responsibility on her shoulders. She was still in her 12th std when her marriage happened on May 13, and in a span of few days she appeared for her final exams. Life took a complete U-turn after her marriage. The Calicut girl was now part of the Delhi city– new place, new language, new people, and a new life. Life was very kind to her.

Eighteen years of her life passed by very smooth, and by that time she had become a loving mother of two wonderful kids. Her Husband was indeed a strong pillar for her to lean on. But there was one person who kept troubling her. She tried so hard to avoid his specific questions, but destiny made sure that she couldn't escape his loving care. It was none other than her wonderful Dad. In the society who denies women of dreaming about education, he was indeed the difference. He was the first one who told her “Child, why don't you resume your studies?” That question penetrated through all the shackles of the society. It made her think a lot. “How is it even possible? A married woman thinking of studying? What will the society say?” She had a son who was stepping into his college life. Her mind was nothing less than a volcano fuming with questions. It's been 18 years since she touched a book. But her dad was constantly behind her. Pushing her to rekindle her dreams. Since she loved her parents so much, she decided to write entrance exam for BA/MA integrated course just to satisfy her dad. She prayed hard that she failed in the exam. So that now she would have an excuse to tell her dad. She went to Mysore and enjoyed her time there after giving exams. She was confident that she will fail. But God had a different purpose for her life. Her results finally came. At the age of thirty-six, a married woman whose hands were used to hold cooking vessels and broomsticks for eighteen years, finally decided to pick pen and books, and chase after her dreams. Little did she know that she was going to create a legacy in the years to come.

She Fell in Love with studies–In the class of young bloods, she was the only one who was older but with a young and cheerful heart. There was no looking back from that day. She completed her BA & MA in 4 years. What Next? That’s when life threw another bone at her. One of the fellow teachers in a school questioned her qualification as a temporary teacher. She wanted to give an answer to that. She took the criticism in the right spirit and decided to finish B.ED. Next on her check list was M.Phil, and that chapter had a big twist in her life. Last exam of M.Phil. was coming up in 11 days and her husband was posted in Shimla. By this time her parents had moved in with her. That day her father was not feeling well. But he did not want to trouble her as she was preparing for her exams. But she decided to take him to the hospital. On the way back home, her dad spoke to her non-stop–He complained about her handwriting, kept telling her to study more, requested her to do PhD after MPhil, kept motivating her to push herself. That night took away the most precious person in her life. It was way beyond what she could bear. Her heart shattered into million pieces. There was a big void created in her life. She didn't want to write the exam anymore. But then again, her understanding husband took the role of her dad. He pushed her and told her that she should fulfil the dream of her dad. She gave her exams, but after coming back she looked at the empty bed where her dad used to lie down. After every exam they used to discuss about the paper, but he was not there anymore. Tears started flowing down her eyes, as she cried in silence. Life moved on.

Following her dads wish, she then decided to do PhD. But the admission procedure gave her a checkmate. One year of her life was spent fighting for her right to get an admission. And she finally succeeded in getting it in the year which coincidentally was renowned as International year for Women. From being a temporary teacher in a school to a visiting Professor in IIT, she had indeed travelled a long way. Her twenty-six years of teaching career and still counting has inspired and motivated thousands of wonderful students. She has shown the world that anyone can achieve anything at any age, provided they have a fire to chase it. She proved to the world that a woman can still study and be an inspiration even after marriage, if she has a wonderful husband who realised her potential and supports her till the end. A Teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart. And she has been the perfect example for the same. Every corridor in the IIT campus madras has felt her presence. Her wonderful students called her by the name Manjula Rajan.

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